PW Connect (www.pastorswives.com) is the sister blog of Pastors' Wives Thriving in the Fishbowl's website & message board. We support, encourage, and nurture ministry wives. Our contributors have experienced the fishbowl of ministry life firsthand, and we're here to come alongside you in all the joys and tears.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just a Touch

There are seasons in the Christian life, and perhaps especially in frontline service, when the path we walk darkens. We find ourselves surrounded by pain or grief, facing burdensome assignments or insurmountable obstacles. The air we breathe reeks of danger and fear … worsened by silence from heaven, the sense we’re alone. All alone.

God promises to be with us always, but sometimes we forget. Thankfully He floods our lives with reminders of His presence.

I learned the value of training my spiritual eyes from Edith Schaeffer, wife of Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Her weekly Bible studies during my years at L’Abri unveiled a fresh perspective. She wove observations of every day sights and situations we tend to overlook into illustrations of God’s hand at work in the world.* Her teaching rivaled the expertise of the miller’s daughter in Rumplestiltskin who spun straw into gold.

Developing my focusing skills bore fruit when I was recovering from hip replacement surgery. The simple task of taking a shower morphed into a prisoner of war experience—small enclosure, drumming water, complete isolation, imminent danger. My cruel captor was the fear of falling, beating me to remain upright when I wanted to hunch in a corner. Darkness like a black bag over my head disoriented me as I clenched my eyes against stinging shampoo. Yet I stood and endured.

In one particular torture session I felt myself tilting sideways and panic surged. My hand shot out and struck the white tiles. No handhold to grasp, but the wall held firm. I leaned into the support and gulped at the security I found. My pulse settled and peace penetrated. I opened my eyes and stood erect. A breath or two and I took hold of the back brush, returning to my mission. Occasionally I poked out my elbow to confirm rescue was less than an arm’s length away.

And so it is with the pilgrim journey in a fallen world. We find ourselves in shadowed valleys, feeling overcome by what’s behind, beside, or before us. Whether in a local church or on the mission field the LORD is our all-sufficient Sovereign, more secure than any vertical upright. He’s the ever-present promise-keeper who rescues and loves on those He calls His own.

Let me encourage you. The next time you find yourself in a tight spot, battered and nearly broken, remember God is closer than your tub surround. You don’t have to open your eyes to find Him. Slip out your hand and lean into His strength. Draw peace from His presence. He’s right there.

“Never will I Ieave you; never will I forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5 NIV1984

*A Way of Seeing, by Edith Schaeffer, is a collection of sixty essays with fresh insights on biblical Truth.

About the Author
Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s a well-respected speaker and author known for her candor and warmth. Sandra’s current manuscript invites wallflower women to reach for the life God intends them to live. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/

You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook. If you contact her at Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Instagram she’ll be delighted with a reason to practice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Authenticity and Some Good Advice: An Interview with Sandra Allen Lovelace

Her eyes were bright and her smile contagious, but it was her spirit—something in the set of her backbone and the confident lift of her chin—that drew the attention of everyone at the table. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have known she was the same woman I’d met two years earlier. After one of those lunches where you forget to eat, I knew I had to share her story with you!

Sandra Allen Lovelace grew up on the coast of Connecticut. Forty-eight years ago, she met and married her husband, Curt, in college. For thirty years, the Lovelaces served in paid pastoral ministry. In the early years, their isolated, international locations meant Sandra didn’t have encouragement from other ministry wives, so she had to figure things out on her own.

I asked Sandra about her calling alongside her husband’s paid ministry, and I think you’ll appreciate her be-yourself attitude. She explained,

We did our best to help others realize I was Curt’s wife and not a co-pastor. At the same time, I saw my responsibility as his wife to come along side and support him in any way I could. Making our home a place he could find peace and harmony was at the top of the list. After that came the task of teaching and training our two children. However, I found myself contributing a fair amount of hands-on participation to his ministry—regular hospitality, attention to newcomers, ladies Bible studies and retreats, curriculum for children’s ministry, cleaning and reorganizing his office and storage areas. There were limits though. I don’t play piano and I’ve been known to forget to add the tuna to a tuna noodle casserole. I never taught Sunday School and only provided refreshments for VBS. Organizing typical ministries, such as meals to shut-ins or secret sisters wasn’t my thing.

Some challenges are unique to minister’s wives. Like many of us, Sandra struggled with the impossible task of trying to please everyone in the church. Looking back on those years, she advises us, “No matter what’s going on around you, remember your life is lived before an audience of One. And by His all-sufficient grace, it’s the condition of your heart He values.” She turned to Romans:

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death."
 -Romans 8:1-2 NIV

Sandra wants you to know she wasn’t the “super saint” people thought her to be while she served beside her husband all those years. And being a pastor’s wife didn’t turn her into a saint either. (I think we can all agree with that for ourselves, too.) She says, “I’m merely an everyday pilgrim along with my brothers and sisters. I make my way with the same Spirit all believers share.” It’s the Spirit Paul described to Timothy:

"For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."
  -2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

She concludes, “What He does for me He can and will do for anyone who comes with a confessing heart.”

When Curt retired, Sandra had to redefine her calling and untangle her role in the church (pastor’s wife) from her role in her family (Curt’s wife). She didn’t retire from being his wife! At about the same time, God began to work in Sandra’s heart in a fresh way. Here’s how she describes it:

My New Look is the outward expression of the recovery God has been granting me. I cried out to Him in desperation when I realized I was a wallflower woman. While the lives of everyone around me benefited from my contributions, I was trapped flat in the wallpaper. There was so much more I wanted to do, felt gifted to pursue. The first hint God might have created me for more than I knew came at a retreat where my true and quirky self was accepted and celebrated. Since then it’s been a thrilling adventure of getting to know the One who calls me the apple of His eye. I’m writing a book about the process to encourage and guide other wallflower women to reach for the life God created them to live.

That straight back and confident chin I first noticed? In Sandra, I found a woman fully enjoying who God created her to be, delighting in her new-found freedom as a daughter of the King, and digging more deeply into God’s purpose and calling than the “wallflower woman” ever could. And that’s attractive.

You’ll get to know much more about Sandra soon because she’s a new columnist for Pastor’s Wives! Give her a big welcome here, and be sure to leave a comment for me or Sandra if this brief interview blessed you.

#PastorsWives #Interview: Your life is lived before an audience of one. @pwconnect @SandraALovelace @Carole_Sparks (click to tweet)

Question for reflection: It always helps our perspective when we verbalize what we’ve learned from our experiences. Even if you’ve been in ministry for only a few years, what’s your best advice for a new pastor’s wife? Feel free to share that advice in the comments below.

About the Author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her website, http://carolesparks.com or her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.com.

You can also find Carole on 
FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stop and Smell the Roses

All too often we put expectations on ourselves that God never intended for us to have. We just got back from a youth trip last night. Let me just tell you about this trip.

The day before we left, our church van broke down. And I'm not talking about a "hey let's take it to the mechanic for a couple hours and have him fix it" kind of break down, I mean a "this van is going to be out of service for a few days" kind of break down. We have already paid for all our reservations and events, so canceling the trip is out of the question. And in our panicked-mode, it took us about 6 1/2 hours to realize we have two working personal vehicles we can take (mine along with a vehicle we were going to sale -- that is until Allen drove it this weekend and fell in love with it again).

Fast forward to the day we leave. 7:00 AM bright and early and all our students are there on time and ready to go. We make it to Ruston, La, (about 25 minutes from our small-town Farmerville) to top off our gas tanks. Then it happens, Allen asks me the question. "Hey sweetie everything goes in the (insert card name) card here right?" Long story short, he had to go all the way back to Farmerville to retrieve the correct cards, so now we are a good hour behind schedule. 

We finally make it to Dallas and have the time of our lives just getting to get away with our students. (We planned this rip to get closer to our students and to let them get away after losing two teenagers to tragedy in our small town this year). Being a youth trip, you never get much sleep (unless you are Allen and can sleep through a tornado). So our 5 hour drive back home (that turned into 6 hours because of a sudden storm) felt like 15 hours for me driving a car while the students are passed out NOT keeping me company. We ate a classic hot pocket and macaroni dinner when we got home and were in bed by 10. 

So, I wake up this morning knowing that I have so much to do. I need to clean house after we wrecked it in the middle of packing. I need to go to the church and price everything we have for our youth garage sale in less than two weeks. I need to plan out the rest of our personal summer (the youth's summer is already good to go). I need to make sure Allen has everything he needs at the office today and that he stops to eat lunch. I need to start packing because we move into our new house in two weeks. The list goes on and on. And as I get up to head to the washer and dryer, I hear it.

That still small whisper..

"Just stop and spend some time with me." 

 "Yes, God of course. I will as soon as I get started with some of this laundry."

"The laundry will still be there afterwards."

Soooooooo... I put my to-do list aside and just sat down and spent some time with God. He didn't have any big revelations for me. He didn't have any life-changing assignments to give me. He just simply reminded me of all the incredible things that happened this past weekend. He reminded me of the smiles on three particular students’ faces who have been facing a lot at home. He reminded me of our youngest student who decided to give his life to Jesus on this trip. He reminded me of the beautiful scenery on the drive to Dallas. He allowed me to just sit and rest in His presence before I started my week.

Many times people in ministry feel they are only successful if they are always going going going and always have a full to-do list. If we don't have a busy and therefore stressful week, then it wasn't a "good week for the ministry." But that's not how it is suppose to be at all. God never calls us to "busy". He calls us to His work. And God knows what is best for His children. God knows that in order to do our best, we also need to rest. God knows that we won't always see the fruit of our hard work immediately, but He always leaves small things for us to search for to know that we are doing well. 

Don't worry about that list. There will be time for it to get done. Stop. Reflect on the beautiful things around you. Smell those roses. The things God allows us to be a part of. Rest in His presence. Love on Him. The renewed strength and refreshed mind that you will have afterwards is far greater than anything even the best night's sleep could give you.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."  
Luke 10:41-42

About the Author:
My name is Katherine Norris, and I am a Youth Pastor alongside my incredible husband, Allen Norris. We got married in August 2016 and live in the small town of Farmerville, La. We are both full-time youth pastors, full-time college students, and I am a part-time barista at our hometown coffee shop. I am majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences, and cannot wait to graduate. We love our students, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for our lives.

Connect with Katherine:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Melting Tears

Amid the chaos of coming home late from church and hurriedly beginning to prepare for lunch, I heard the distinct clatter of a bag full of toys being dumped onto the kitchen floor.  With an inward groan of irritation, I turned to see Rachel standing in the middle of a pile of toys sporting a great big grin on her face.   

The troupes were restless to be fed, as was my own stomach, so I asked her big sister Crystal to help her pick up the toys.  With my attention returned back to preparing lunch, I tuned out the commotion going on at my feet until I heard tears of frustration coming from Crystal. 

Looking down, I realized that she had obediently picked up all of the toys and with great discouragement was upset with Rachel for not noticing what she had done to help her.  Trying to soothe her, I reassured Crystal that I had seen her hard work, and that I was truly appreciative of it even if Rachel was oblivious to it. 

As I spoke my words of motherly wisdom to her, it donned on me, here I was playing out the exact scene I had participated in with God on so many occasions.  Only it had been me who was upset for not being noticed or appreciated by someone for the effort and sacrifices I had made for them.  

From where I stood, it was obvious to me that there was little to no hope that our 3-year-old Rachel would be able to appreciate what Crystal had done for her, in the way that Crystal was wanting.  It made me wonder just how many times I may have been wanting something from someone else that they were simply unable to give me.

I, on the other hand, was able to appreciate everything that Crystal had done to help Rachel and was able to understand the value of her effort to an even greater degree than even she was aware of.  

As I praised Crystal for the wonderful helper she had been, I saw her tears melt away into a smile and I knew that the praises of her mother were of far greater value to her.  I realized that is the same for us with God.  Although we search for the praise of others, nothing can satisfy us quite the same as praise from our Heavenly Father. 

Today, I was reminded that as we labor in love for our King our efforts may go unnoticed and unappreciated by others, but they are never overlooked or unrewarded by our Father!  On that final day of judgment, every tear of frustration we have cried will melt into an everlasting smile.  

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5

About the Author:

Tracy  Birtch currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is mom to Crystal, Jamie, and Rachel and a Pastors wife to Aaron.  Six years ago they planted a church which was an incredible adventure that brought them both some wonderful high and painful low experiences.  From this, Tracy has developed a heart to see the emotional wounds of others experience the full healing that God can bring. 

Connect with Tracy:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Jesus Drive Through

Can I be honest? Sometimes I treat Jesus like a fast-food breakfast from McDonalds. I rush to the Jesus Drive Through and frantically shout my order.

“Hi! I need some peace, joy, and wisdom to go please.”

Then I dash away, not even noticing Jesus in my rearview mirror. If I looked back, I’d have seen Him wearing an apron and holding a spatula. I might have caught the puzzled look on His face as He mouthed the words.

“But, I made you breakfast.”

Seriously, what would you rather eat? A greasy Egg McMuffin? Or a light and crispy Belgian waffle with fresh fruit and real whipped cream? Would you shove that soggy sandwich down your throat while dodging traffic and making phone calls? Or would you rather linger over your waffle on a shady porch with a fresh cup of coffee and a special friend?

Girls, we cannot pour out of empty cups. We have nothing to give if we are not full ourselves.

We try. Trust me, I know. When we are already in the Word for Bible study, Sunday School lessons, children’s church, curriculum planning, youth group, etc. sometimes it gets a little old. Having daily devotions can feel like one more thing we are supposed to do. One more “should” added to the pile. One more way we are not measuring up.

Fortunately, it’s not supposed to be about a checklist or pile of “shoulds”. Daily time with Jesus doesn’t give us brownie points with God. And it doesn’t make us spiritually superior.

God created people to be in a relationship with Him. Jesus died and rose again to restore that relationship. We get to intimately know and be known by the God of the Universe! Sometimes we can get so distracted and consumed by ministry that we forget this.

What does it look like to linger over breakfast with Jesus? Maybe something like this:

  •         Take your coffee (or beverage of choice) out to your deck, porch, or other quiet place, and just be still for a few minutes. Whisper the words your heart is feeling and let Him whisper back.
  •      Use a journal to collect your thoughts. I find that my prayers have more substance when I journal because even if my young children distract me, I know where I left off! It’s also encouraging to go back and see how God answers prayers or works things out.
  •          Go into your bedroom (or another quiet room) and close the door. Light a candle. Listen to your favorite worship songs.
  •          Dwell on a small chunk of Scripture each day and let it soak in. Often meditating on a few verses is more heart-changing for me than trying to consume chapters or do in-depth studies.

Our spirits need nourishment just like our physical bodies. Ministry is hard, friends, and we cannot do it on empty. What can you do today to avoid the Jesus Drive Through and spend time lingering over breakfast instead?

About the Author:

Christy Wood is a former youth pastor’s wife, mother of two, lover of Jesus, hater of legalism, blogger, and hopeful author. After spending her teens in a legalistic Christian cult, Christy is passionate about the truth and about helping people find genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. She blogs at www.letmebefoolish.com.

You can connect with Christy on Twitter (@letmebefoolish) or Facebook.

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